The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Original at Guardian/Observer archives

Philip French
The Observer: Sunday March 26, 2000

First shown in late 1946, the re-released A Matter of Life and Death, one of the finest products of the partnership between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, is an extravagant allegory that manages to be simultaneously life-enhancing and necrophiliac. David Niven is at his most charming as a wounded RAF pilot who on the point of death confronts a heavenly tribunal.

The themes are Anglo-American relations, imperialism and the shape of the post-war world, and the movie is dated only in the sense that it exudes that spirit of hope that informed the brief period between the election of the first majority Labour Government and the onset of the Cold War.

Kim Hunter, who the following year was to create the role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, is delightful as the American WAC devoted to Niven, and there is a scene-stealing performance from Marius Goring as the eighteenth-century French aristocrat, a victim of the Revolution, who acts as a heavenly emissary. Jack Cardiff's photography (monochrome for heaven, Technicolor for Earth) and Alfred Junge's sets are exquisite.

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